Hew Locke

I want to find out more about Hew Locke. Or, what I mean is: I want to see his work in the flesh and I want to see it now. Thanks to Matthew Kolakowski and Jane Eyton (you will never look at a 99 in the same way again) for their top tip-off on this one. They were right: I will love him. I already do. Ah! And it looks like I’m in luck. He has an exhibition at Hales Gallery in September and October this year. And he’s got something in the Royal Academy right now. But Hales will be bigger.

You can hear (and see) him talk about his work here. The piece in the V&A is superb: “It immediately led to this”. Just like that. How come I’ve only found out about Mr Locke now? Why am I so slow?

And he says, this, below, is the future. “So get used to it.”

Meanwhile, the UN is getting weirder.


Julian Richards

is fabulous understated good at choosing wives now here.

limited, arrogant and self-satisfied

No, I’m not talking about him again. I’m referring to Gabriel Josipovici’s views on the state of contemporary British literature. As someone prone to so much self-doubt it’s not funny, I rather settled on this line, towards the bottom of the piece: ‘Overall, [Josipovici] said, while the likes of Kafka were plagued by self-doubt, his modern peers seemed arrogant and self-satisfied, “which is mildly depressing”.’ This makes me want to read his new book more and more. If anyone out there wants to buy me a present for any reason at all (pity, admiration, love, hate, belated birthday… I don’t care) please buy me that. I’ll love you forever.

It’s thanks to the TLS that I first encountered (belatedly I’m ashamed to say) Josipovici. His review of Beckett’s letters had me hooked and searching for more. I came across some of that here and here on Steve Mitchelmore’s fabulous blog, and then this interview at ReadySteadyBook, and another by Jeff Bursey I’ve just found here at The Quarterly Conversation.

Thanks to Nel for the heads up. (And a nod to S regarding the sensationalism, or sexing up, of this piece.)

as you don’t like it

Thanks to Barbaric Document, I have been reminded of the awful things I got up to, years ago, when I worked in this café:

I was a teenager. We were very badly paid. Exploited, you might say. So to help us through the day we – me and the other staff, none of whom I can remember now – used to use the remains of customers’ orders for the servings of the customers to follow. In other words, if you ordered a milkshake but only drank half of it, we’d tip that half into a clean glass and mix it in with some fresh froth and cream and serve it up with a big smile. If a customer had bad attitude, we might tip something less tasty into their tea or Coke or shake. It gave us no end of amusement watching them consume the whole lot, apparently unaware. My months as a waitress have put me off, for life, cafés like this one. I never ever visit them unless I absolutely have to. I’d certainly never order a milkshake or something which is good for disguising unpleasant substances. Soup, for example.

Oh dear Ellis: I really hope you didn’t actually go in there and consume. (If you can stomach his brilliant answer, which I wish I’d known about before I worked at AYLIC, but the story had not been written then, it’s here.) Enjoy? Enjoy? Mr Sharp: I loved it. I want it to be mine. Superb. Thank you thank you.

South African press on LRB letter

Race row over baboon essay at the Sunday Times by Rowan Philp is an interesting piece for anyone who wants to know more about the view from South Africa and some (limited) background on RW Johnson. (It does not talk about his support for Buthelezi, for example, nor for the homelands as was explained to me today by a South African friend who was active in the ANC and the struggle.) I can’t help but feel irritation that the piece states that “73 prominent academics demanded the removal of both an online article by writer RW Johnson, and of Johnson himself…” We (and we are not all prominent academics but anyway) expressed amazement that the piece had remained online for 13 days and that even after someone on the esteemed team of LRB editors had edited it, it still contained an explicit racist linking of baboon and African migrant etc. We expressed our relief when the piece (in that form) was taken down. But at no point did we ask for it to be removed. That was a separate organisation in the UK that had threatened the LRB with legal action if it did not take the piece down: it was not us. Our letter actually went to some lengths to ensure that we did not demand censorship of RW Johnson per se but expressed our concern that the LRB published his racist writing. Which is different. Certainly, I am not interested in RW Johnson as an individual. I do not sit at my computer waiting to read his next blog. I dislike his work and rarely find it enlightening, so – like many writers and journalists whose work I don’t admire – I simply have stopped bothering to read it. His baboons and bananas blog post was brought to my attention several days after it had been up. I then decided to act. I wouldn’t mind if RW Johnson carried on writing for the LRB, so long as the LRB didn’t print him when he was being explicitly racist. His reactionary work is appropriate for say the right-wing Spectator, for whom he also writes, but sits oddly in a publication that many believe to occupy a centre-left position. It sits even more oddly when they so rarely given any other writer any space to write about South Africa. If the LRB invited other South Africans & Africans (among others) to write about South Africa, the publication would be succeeding in provoking broader debate on that country, and stimulating deeper thought. Those who accuse us of insisting on censorship have not read our letter carefully enough, just as Mary-Kay Wilmers admitted she and her team did not read RW Johnson’s racist blog post carefully enough.

LRB & RWJ climbdown etc

For those who defend RW Johnson’s reputation and track record – and even his explicit linking of baboons and African migrants – on the grounds that he was an anti-apartheid activist of some merit (although there is quite some reason to doubt that), consider these wise words:

“The interesting point here is that if you had suggested to any ANC activist during the struggle that their passion included a certain degree of self-interest, you would have been indignantly told that he/she expected no reward and that their activism was entirely a matter of principle. Now, however, the first reason always given why the same person should have this job or that contract is that this is the reward they deserve for their role in the struggle, exactly contradicting the previous statement.”

Written by a recognised expert on South African politics.